Fourth Feile Fidelma
The fourth Feile Fidelma was held in the Palace Hotel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary on the weekend of September 7-9, 2012. It was regarded as a most successful event by the organisers and participants alike and they were unanimous in their opinion that another similar weekend should be held in two years time. This decision will rest with Cashel Arts Fest but the indications are fairly strong that it will be favourable.
The weekend brought together a number of old friends of Cashel, some of whom have attended all the earlier events devoted to the novels of Peter Tremayne, but also an encouraging number of new Fidelma fans. Numbers were down somewhat on previous years but were good in the current world economic climate. In all eight countries were represented.
One of these old friends was Hans van den Boom, the Dutch publisher of Fidelma, who has never missed a Féile. He is a great friend of the event and supplies it with posters and publicity material.
He had a very important announcement to make. His publishing company, Leeskamer, intend to bring out the Fidelma novels in graphic form. The company is already working on the graphics and will publish in three languages, Dutch, English and Portuguese, simultaneously in the new year. This is an exciting new venture and should attract a completely new constituency of readers to the novels.
Another old friend, who attended with a party of four from Argentina, was Maggie Tolderlund. Maggie is the publisher of Fidelma in Buenos Aires and has never missed an event since the first in 2006. Her visit this year was much appreciated in the light of the very difficult economic situation in Argentina at the moment.
Rose Nabholz came all the way from Arkansas for her third Feile. She had to put her two dogs in care while she was away. Rose is a great fan of Kilkenny hurling and was delighted to be here for the All-Ireland final, which was played on the Sunday. Over eighty thousand attended and unfortunately for Rose all her team could achieve was a draw with Galway and they will have to play again on September 30. Rose's disappointment wasn't shared by many because Kilkenny have won so much over the past ten years that the vast number of hurling fans are looking for a change. The game of hurling features in one of the Fidelma novels, A Prayer for the Damned (2006), pp. 126-129.
A first timer to Cashel was Richard M Vielberg of Austin, Texas. He was the winner of a draw among participants who had registered for Cashel by May 1. Thirty-one people had done so and Richard was the lucky winner of a personalized signed copy of the uncorrected proofs of The Seventh Trumpet, published in 2012 and of the Novella, The Snow Wolf, published in 2011. He was presented with his prize by Peter during the weekend.
The format of Féile Fidelma is well-established by now. It takes place in the Palace Hotel, which was built in 1730 for the Church of Ireland bishops of Cashel. It became a hotel in 1962 and is an outstanding venue for the event.
The formalities commenced on Friday evening with registration and the distribution of information packs at 6 pm and this was followed by a reception. The formal opening of the weekend took place at 8 pm. The Mayor of Cashel, Dr. Sean McCarthy, who formally opened the event was welcomed by Petronelle Clifton Brown, the chair of Cashel Arts Fest Committee, the organising body of the weekend. The Mayor was high in his praise of the work of Cashel Arts Fest and its promotion of the Feile Fidelma Weekend. He was impressed with its benefits to the economic life of the town. Also in attendance was Councillor John Crosse, chairman of South Tipperary County Council.
The first speaker of the weekend is always the author himself, Peter Tremayne, and his talk is chaired by that great friend of Féile Fidelma, David Wooten, the Director of the International Sister Fidelma Society, who does enormous work in publicising the event. This is not really a talk but a question and answer session. David collects a number of questions beforehand, which Fidelma fans as well as participants at the weekend would like to put to the author. It's a wonderful occasion for establishing a rapport between the writer and his readers. There were some quite tricky questions but Peter answered them all with aplomb and erudition.
The historical background to the Fidelma Mysteries, based as they are in seventh century Ireland, is always treated on the weekend and this year was no exception. The choice of Dr. Damian Bracken of the history department, U.C.C. was an inspired one. He spoke of the conflict between Rome and the early Irish Churches and doing so showed how the superior attitude of the Roman Empire towards peripheral geographical areas was adopted by the Roman Church towards places like Ireland, who were very much on the periphery and liked doing their own thing.
Cora Harrison is a writer who is living in Co. Clare and the author of a crime series featuring a female Brehon, Mara, in the sixteenth century. This is a period in the history of Ireland when the Brehon Law period was coming to an end and English Law was taking over. The Brehon Law still existed in rural areas and the Burren Series deals with the conflict between the old and the new. Cora has seven mystery novels to date in the series.
The third speaker on Saturday was Neil Donnelly, who was returning for a second year. At the previous Féile he dramatized Peter Tremayne's short story, Invitation to a Poisoning, which was presented as a rehearsed reading. This year he spoke of the problems of adaptation especially of works that weren't widely known.
Also returning was Anna Heusssaff and she opened the proceedings on Sunday morning with the provocative title 'Is Fidelma a Real Woman?' She analysed the character of Fidelma and this led to an interesting discussion. The general consensus was that Peter had produced a credible female character with the exception of Fidelma's lack of chat about family and friends.
A new voice was that of Cormac Miller (aka Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin and a professor of Italian at Trinity College, Dublin) who is a crime writer in his spare time and is working on his third novel at the moment. He gave us a comprehensive round-up of 'Some Clerical Heroes and Villains in Crime Fiction.'
Critical Study of the Sister Fidelma Novels
The final speaker was the Director of the International Sister Fidelma Society, David Wooten, who spoke about the Society but spent a good lot of time lambasting Headline (Ireland), the publishers of the Fidelma Mysteries, for their non-existent support for Féile Fidelma. He had also some largesse to distribute in the form of book prizes for winners in a quiz on the novels he had set for the participants. The winner was ?
One of the most important pieces of information he had for the audience was the arrival of a major academic work about the Sister Fidelma Mysteries, which was recently published by academic publishers, McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina and London. Entitled The Sister Fidelma Mysteries: The Historical Novels of Peter Tremayne, is a collection of twenty essays, edited by Professor Ed Reilly and David Robert Wooten. Included in the essays is one on the origin and history of Féile Fidelma by Seamus J. King. The book retails for $40 and is a wonderful addition to our knowledge of the Fidelma Mysteries as well as a very important reference book. An advance copy of the book was presented by David to the author.
The Feile weekend wasn't all work but was leavened by a good amount of social contact and camaradierie. One of the high points of the weekend was the Féile dinner, which took place on Saturday evening and was a most relaxing occasion. One of the features of it was a light-hearted speech by Peter which this year concentrated on slagging off his critics.
Another place which is conducive to bonhomie and good fellowship is the Cellar Bar in the hotel, where Denis Heffernan reigns. Anyone who hasn't met this man will find it difficult to imagine what kind of unique character he is. He is first of all a barman but he is also an entertainer. When his customers have been served he can make his way outside the bar and sing to them from a large repertory of songs. One of his favourites is 'Cashel, My Home Town', his own composition with which he loves greeting and welcoming people to his town. David had this wonderful idea that, after the formal remarks at the official opening were complete, he would have Denis sing his favourite song. But, alas, he found out on arriving to Cashel that Denis was away for the weekend at a family wedding in London. He was definitely missed but promised when he returned on Monday that he would never be absent again for Féile Fidelma.
An unusual feature of the weekend was a visit to an archaeological site about two miles from Cashel. Called Rathnadrinna, it is a four-ringed earthen fort, the kind used during Celtic times as a fortified homestead. What makes this one unique is its four rings or banks. Most are only one or two-ringed.
Local archaeologist, Richard O'Brien has been investigating this for a number of years, because there is little or no written record about it. Because of its size it is believed to have been an assembly area or it may have been used for ceremonial purposes. At any rate, Richard started a dig there this summer and he had much to relate when we visited it on Saturday afternoon.
The interest for Fidelma fans is that it features in four of the Mysteries. It houses a tavern and Fidelma and Eadulf drop in there for a drink on their way back to Cashel. Ferloga and his wife, Lassar, are the proprietors of the tavern. Richard informed us of the purpose of the fort and what his excavations, which have only started, have revealed to date.
It was a beautiful day for the visit, as in fact was the weather for the complete weekend. The sun shone, which isn't a usual occurrence in Ireland with its changeable weather system. In the centre of the fort during the visit the sun was warm, the sky was clear and there was no desire to be anywhere else.
Most of the participants had departed by Monday morning but there were a few who remained around for a couple of extra days, Particularly Peter and David. During conversations thoughts turned towards a potential Féile Fidelma 5 and the kind of topics that could be subjects for talks at the future date. One of the most fascinating was the possibility of a talk on the horse in the Fidelma Mysteries. Fidelma is an outstanding horsewoman and her horse is a special breed imported to Ireland from the south of France. Cashel is in the midst of Ireland's famous horse industry and what a wonderful topic it would make for discussion. Watch this space!.
First posted on the International Sister Fidelma Society website, Sept 2012